As Spring Birds Jam the Skies, Petitioners Call on Government to Protect Boreal Forest

As Spring Birds Jam the Skies, Petitioners Call on Government to Protect Boreal Forest

60,000 join in call to increase protection for breeding grounds for billions of birds

Related Links

Canada’s Boreal Forest

Save Our Boreal Birds

Additional Facts and Resources

May 12, 2009 (Ottawa) – With spring bird migration in full swing, groups across Canada today will deliver 60,000 petitions to provincial and federal governments calling for increased protection of Canada’s Boreal Forest. Canada’s Boreal Forest, often referred to as the “Bird Nursery of the North”, contains the breeding and nesting grounds for billions of migratory birds. Serious declines of many bird populations have prompted groups to call for large-scale protection of important bird habitat within the Boreal Forest. Simultaneous media events are planned in Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City, with participation in six other provinces and territories (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and British Columbia).

The petitions, to be delivered to Prime Minister Harper and provincial Premiers, ask Canadian governments to adopt the principles of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework. The Framework, developed with some of the world’s leading scientists, calls for protecting at least 50% of the Boreal Forest and supporting sustainable development practices in the remaining areas. Signatures were collected via the Save Our Boreal Birds website (, a collaborative effort by more than twenty conservation groups from across Canada, the United States, Central and South America.

Dr. Jeff Wells of the Boreal Songbird Initiative noted, “Ottawa has supported protecting over thirty million acres in the Northwest Territories in the past two years, which is an outstanding down payment for nature.” Referring to the recent commitments by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest to protect at least half of the Boreal Forest in their respective provinces, Dr. Jeff Wells added, “There are few places left on earth beyond Canada where governments still have the potential to make this unique contribution to conserving international migratory birds. Premiers McGuinty and Charest deserve recognition for their global leadership.”

Scientists have also called for protection of Canada’s Boreal Forest in recognition of its importance as the world’s largest carbon storehouse. Carbon equivalent to 27 years’ worth of the world’s fossil fuel emissions is stored in Canada’s Boreal Forest’s lakes, soils, peat lands, and trees, but can be released due to industrial disturbance of these lands.

“Ontario and Quebec represent only part of the boreal region,” said Ted Cheskey, Conservation Ecologist for Nature Canada. “We strongly urge all governments in Canada to build on this momentum and work with First Nations and others on a secure future for wildlife and birds by protecting at least 50% of the Boreal Forest.” Cheskey noted that the petition outlines grave concerns about the future of the Canadian Boreal Forest and the billions of birds that it supports. “As many as five billion birds flood south from the Canadian Boreal to wintering grounds in the US, Mexico, and beyond. Canadians have an international responsibility to protect these breeding grounds as reflected in Canadian laws and international agreements,” Cheskey said.

For further information and interviews please contact:

Chris Sutton, Nature Canada 613-562-3447 ext. 248; 613-668-2279 (cell);
Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada 613-562-3447 ext. 248;

Additional Facts and Resources:

All press materials, including boreal bird migration maps, boreal bird decline fact sheet, photos, B-roll, and audio of boreal bird songs, available at: or contact David Childs, Boreal Songbird Initiative, at 206-956-9040 ext.7

By the numbers:

  • North America’s Boreal Forest represents 25% of the world’s remaining intact forest.
  • Over 300 species breed in Canada’s Boreal Forest.
  • Of these, 40 land birds and several duck species are facing declines. Habitat loss is one likely cause.
  • 80% of North American waterfowl, 63% of finches, and 53% of warblers breed in Canada’s Boreal Forest.
  • For at least 96 species, over half of their entire breeding population occurs in the Boreal Forest region.
  • Many Boreal bird species have registered serious declines in recent years. Rusty Blackbirds have declined by 90%, Boreal Chickadees and Evening Grosbeaks by more than 70%, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Bay-breasted and Canada Warblers by over 50% as have the boreal-breeding ducks Surf Scoters and Scaup.
  • Boreal birds are serious economic drivers. Boreal birds conduct over 5 billion dollars worth of ecological services by pollinating plants and controlling insect pests.
  • 60 million people spend time in North America watching migratory birds and 3.2 million people hunt ducks and geese every year spending tens of billions of dollars annually on travel, lodging and gear.
  • Map of Boreal Birds Flyway – Each fall, billions of birds fly south after breeding and nesting in Canada’s Boreal Forest; for this and other boreal bird maps see additional resources.
  • Protection of Canada’s Boreal Forest was highlighted in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s State of the Birds Report.

About Nature Canada

Ted Cheskey is a Conservation Ecologist for Nature Canada, an Ottawa-based charity whose mandate is to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature. With strategies based on sound science and passion for nature, Nature Canada effects change on issues of national significance, including wilderness protection, bird conservation and species at risk.

About Boreal Songbird Initiative

Dr. Jeff Wells is the Science and Policy Director for the Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI), a project of the Pew Environment Group. BSI is a non-profit organization dedicated to outreach and education about the importance of the Boreal Forest to North America’s birds.